The enigma of the Half-Blood Prince: Part 3

This is the third part of my monologue on Severus Snape, continuing from, and starting from Snape was an expert Potions Master, and excellent in Defence against the Dark Arts as well. However, he was not an ideal teacher. He was very openly biased towards his own house (Slytherin) and generally gave the Gryffindors a hard time – in particular Harry, Hermione and Neville. Of course, it could be argued that Snape had to show bias towards Slytherin; being a double agent – so as to protect his cover as a spy within the Death Eaters. However, there was more to it than that – particularly when it came to Harry, Hermione and Neville.

It was no secret that Snape hated Harry, because he looked so much like his father – James Potter, Snape’s tormentor back in the old days. However, as Dumbledore said (towards the end of Book 7); Harry’s character was more like that of his mother Lily; whom Snape loved more than anything in the world. As many of us fans have deduced, since Harry had his mother’s eyes; having to look at Harry everyday reminded Snape of his long lost love – and probably brought a sense of shame, guilt and regret. Thus, Snape probably convinced himself that he was looking at a replica of the hated James Potter; when he was actually looking at a replica of his dear Lily. Hermione Granger, being a Muggle-born and a brilliant student; again probably reminded Snape of Lily. The prophecy which Voldemort so catastrophically interpreted; could have been about either Harry or Neville – Voldemort chose a half-blood like himself; instead of the pureblood Neville. Had Voldemort chosen Neville instead, Lily might have survived. Thus, Snape had yet another reminder of how different things could have been.

However, while it may all seem understandable; none of this can sufficiently excuse the way Snape treated each of these three students. Snape bullied Neville with such regularity that his Boggart became Snape in Book 3. Dear old Remus Lupin, I love him for this – he was able to bring courage out of the till-then timid Neville and in such an adorably funny way – with Neville eventually transforming the Boggart to Snape wearing his grandmother’s vulture-stuffed dress and handbag! Sadly and predictably, after this reached Snape’s ears; he bullied Neville worse than ever. In Book 4, when Draco Malfoy provoked Harry into a duel in the corridor outside Snape’s dungeons; both their spells richocheted off each other, with Harry’s spell hitting Goyle and Malfoy’s hitting Hermione. When Snape arrived on the scene, Goyle’s face was covered in fungi; so Snape rightly asked him to go to the hospital wing.

However, the same treatment was not shown to Hermione; whose teeth had been enlarged so grotesquely that they had grown past her collar! Snape simply said “I see no difference”; prompting Hermione to burst in tears and storm towards the hospital wing. Making a student cry through your double standards is one of the cruellest things you can do as a teacher. In Book 5, Snape’s Occlumency lessons with Harry were indeed a fiasco; as described by Dumbledore at the start of Book 6. Here, my grouse with Snape is not the result of the lessons – it was always going to be difficult for a person like Harry to master Occlumency, given that he always wore his heart on his sleeve and was very open in sharing his feelings and emotions; and Occlumency requires you to be secretive about these things. However, Snape relished in needling Harry about some of his most humiliating memories – like Marge’s dog Ripper chasing him up a tree.  Worst of all, though Harry  had no right to sneak into Snape’s memories; Snape’s reaction – physically throwing Harry out of his class and trying to pelt him with a jar of cockroaches – was violent in the extreme.

In Book 6, Harry was undoubtedly wrong in using the Sectumsempra curse against Draco Malfoy (even in self-defense) without knowing what it did, as well as lying about where he got the curse from – but it is not the detentions that Snape gave him (causing him to miss the final and all-important Quidditch match of the season, that too being a captain) which bother me – McGonagall agreed with Snape on the severity of his punishment; so might have done the same had she got the opportunity. Snape, being a powerful Legilimens; would have undoubtedly known that Harry was dating Ginny – these detentions cut into the time he would have been spending with Ginny instead. Again, it is not the detentions themselves that I have an issue with – the issue is that Snape subtly ridiculed Harry during these detentions, commenting on “the weather and the varied opportunities it offered”. This makes it look like Snape was purposely detaining Harry, to deny him time with his girlfriend.

Again, something that many of us fans have extrapolated – Ginny, being a redhead and feisty in nature; reminded Snape of Lily. Harry and Ginny being together was like James and Lily all over again. Thus, we can deduce that Snape yet again found a way to release his frustration over his broken relationship with his long-lost love. This is terribly immature and selfish; and doesn’t reflect well on a senior professor and member of an organization fighting the Dark forces. Also, none of this has anything to do with Snape’s cover as a spy within the Death Eaters. With Harry having a direct connection to Voldemort’s mind because of his being a Horcrux (which Snape, though was not aware of), it could be argued that Snape being kind to Harry might have risked Voldemort suspecting his true loyalties. However, the same cannot be said about Snape’s treatment of Neville and Hermione; which was more or less out of spite.

Between all this, I have missed out Snape’s madness towards the end of Book 3. He was utterly deranged, and wanted to drag both Sirius Black and Lupin to suffer the Dementor’s Kiss – which is worse than death, as your soul is sucked out from your body! Thank Merlin that Harry, Ron and Hermione ended up knocking him out ! At that time, apart from Lupin; noone knew that Sirius was innocent – that it was Wormtail who actually betrayed Harry’s parents to Voldemort and sent them to their death. So, it could be argued that Snape’s lunacy and vengeant frame of mind was due to the urge to punish the betrayer of his beloved Lily (which almost everyone believed to be Sirius). Even then, why did he want Lupin as well to suffer such a horrific fate; even in the heat of the moment? Agreed, Snape was simply not in the right state of mind at that time; but this vindictive insanity reflects a moral compass spinning wildly out of control!

Let me make it clear that I do not hate, or even dislike Snape. I find him a fascinating character and a character that manages to redeem himself in the end for every wrong he has done. But he is such a complex character – that I am forced to discuss many of his wrongs, along with his rights. The final (and this time, I really mean final ! 😉 ) part will include the relationship between Snape and Dumbledore; as well as a summary of his character on the whole. Hope you are enjoying it so far! Comments are most welcome!

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